In August 2016 I was commissioned by Scubazoo to work on a TVC for the popular, high-end, cosmetic brand SK-II. Directed by Eva Midgley and DP’d by Jean Poisson the shoot was multi-faceted, with ‘macro’ topside filming being carried out alongside set work and the underwater shoot.
The underwater team consisted of myself (Underwater Cameraman), Gil Woolley from Scubazoo (Underwater AC/AD) and two divers from a nearby dive centre who provided logistical support and in-water safety. We worked out of Pinewood’s deep water tank which is outdoors and not far from the Netflix Marco Polo outdoor set. The circular tank’s dimensions are 18m wide x 5.6m deep. It’s a nice setup with convenient access from the deck and a useful submerged steel platform for resting and handing gear over. Lighting was provided by two Arri 18K HMI’s mounted on cranes. We had some orca lights with us for underwater use but ended up sticking with the topside lighting. The camera was a Red Epic-Dragon housed in a Gates Deep Weapon underwater camera housing. I usually use SLR lenses with the Red but for this commercial we went with the lovely Angenieux 16-40mm Optimo zoom lens with a flat port. 16-40mm is a very nice range and meant we didn’t have to change lenses during the shoot. That was a real bonus given lens changes take time and we only had one day to get what we needed.
Our part of the shoot involved filming a female model performing various moves and poses while wearing various costumes. I think we had five wardrobe changes over the course of a very long day in the tank! It’s hard enough to float fully dressed, let alone perform complex moves in the water, but everyone worked exceptionally hard to achieve the look we were after. To aid the DP and Director we had a live surface feed through a 30m HD-SDI cable to a monitor at the surface. We were shooting at high speed so it was important to get detailed playback quickly for feedback so we could reshoot instantly if necessary.
Commercial shoots are so different from documentary shoots in almost every respect, from the huge crews to the short production times, so it was a nice change of pace for me. I definitely believe that working on different types of shoots helps me improve as a cameraman and I often learn new techniques that I can apply to different genres whether it’s natural history, art, obs-doc or drama – underwater or on land. It’s almost like fitness cross-training for camera work. I definitely look forward to my next chance to work at Pinewood.
Production services were handled by the experienced crew from Biscuit Films
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